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Public representatives in the Western Isles have reacted with anger and frustration as the region's airports face a complete shutdown in the middle of the summer and the ferry services remain heavily restricted by Covid-19 rules.  

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has condemned the SNP Government’s “catastrophic” management of transport links in his region.

The Scottish Conservative MSP reacted angrily after news broke of a decision by air traffic controllers to strike later this month, compounding a sense of crisis in island communities as ferry services struggle to cope with demand, and trunk roads serving the region are repeatedly subject to closures and diversions.

Mr Cameron said: “The SNP’s mismanagement of our transport links has, frankly, been nothing short of catastrophic.

“Communities I represent, all along the western seaboard, are in despair at the state of our infrastructure and what it could mean for job and livelihoods.

“It doesn’t matter whether you travel by road, air or sea, all you see is evidence of under-investment in transport links which leads to frequent unreliability.

“In the face of this, ministers seem paralysed and incapable of action, beyond offering warm words and further rounds of consultation.

“It’s simply not good enough and we need to see a plan of action which turns the current unacceptable situation round.”

And Angus MacNeil MP is urging the Scottish Government to react more quickly given the constraints on ferries. 

This follows receipt of a letter from Transport Minister, Graeme Dey MSP which states that the Scottish Government are not contemplating looking at ferry capacity until 9th August.

Mr MacNeil said: “I know there is a lot of frustration and difficulty for people trying to get a booking on ferries.  This is the peak summer season and by 9th August the demand will have eased.  I would therefore urge the Scottish Government to look at the range of factors and to review ferry capacity restrictions with their civil servants to see if an earlier change is possible. It would be silly to reach August and say things could have changed 3 weeks ago but that the Government didn't get round to checking in the intervening period.  We are at the crunch point right now.

“At present trans-minch ferries are running at an average of 35% capacity, CalMac tell me. I’m not suggesting the 100% that is being hinted for the 9th of August but meantime somewhere sensibly in between so islanders can at least come and go.

“It does seem strange that planes can fly as full as they ever were, but ferry capacity is restricted.  This is leading to huge difficulties on the islands, we have been at level zero for a long time now.  I am writing back to the Transport Minister on these terms as I know that CalMac are prepared to implement increased capacity sooner than 9th August if Government guidance allows.”